Not So Pleasant, but Fast

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Wed 8 Jan 2014 05:22
Noon Position: 17 40.6 N 141 33.7 E
Course: North nor' west Speed: 6 knots
Wind: North east, F4 moderate breeze
Sea: moderate Swell: north east 3 meters
Weather: cloudy, warm, and humid
Day's run (25 hours): 172 nm

The pleasant sailing conditions did not last for long. By mid-afternoon the wind had freshened to about twenty knots, to which I reduced down to one reef in the main and dropped the staysail. Towards sunset ominous looking clouds were to weather of us, promising some squalls, so I reduced the mainsail down to two reefs. It turned out that there wasn't actually much in the clouds, just a bit of shower, and behind them lay light and fickle winds as is so often the case. I pondered setting more sail but looking to the north could see the tell tale signs of dark rippled water rapidly approaching, indicating wind was on its way; and It wasn't long before Sylph was bashing into the seas and swell, close reaching to a fresh breeze.
During the night the wind freshened further, making me think of putting a third reef in the main, but in the dark rough conditions I did not find the idea of setting up the third reef line terribly appealing and chose to bear away and ease sheets a little instead. This meant that we lost some ground to the north but, for the sake of a little bit of comfort, and less wear and tear on Sylph and her crew, it seemed a reasonable sacrifice to make. As it was the night was still a very bouncy ride. The swell has a fair bit of north in it, so, while we were beam reaching for most of the night, when the wind veered into the east Sylph was climbing the combined sea and swell at seven knots, and occasionally launching herself off the back side of them. Lying in my bunk I felt the weightlessness as she started to come down, holding my breath waiting for her to land, often with a resounding crash. I had images of Sylph's weighty wooden mast trying to spear itself through the keel with the momentum of the impact, not to mention perhaps a rusty plate deciding to give way. It is a matter of routine for me to check Sylph's bilges on a regular basis, but last night I was a little more thorough than usual. I am sure the crashing has shaken some rust loose but so far all seems to be holding together.
Now conditions have moderated a little, the wind is a much more pleasant fifteen knots, the seas have abated, though the ride is still very bouncy, partly because I have taken the opportunity to come on to the wind a little to try and make up some of that ground to the north I gave up last night. It is amazing the difference a small course alteration of about twenty degrees can make to the comfort level, the only trouble being that that twenty degrees in the wrong circumstances can be very difficult to make up later on. Looking at my wind forecasts we should enjoy a little respite for the next twenty four hours or so, but by Friday we will have more strong north to north easterlies. We will make the most of the calmer conditions while they last.
By the by, the GPS decided to automatically change time zones last night, which caused me a little confusion, but when I realised why the alarm had not gone off when I had set it I decided I may as well go along with the GPS. So now we are on Tokyo time, and that is why Sylph's daily run has twenty five hours in it.
All is well.